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Editors' Notebook
March 2001

Greg Galitzine

Reunion Hill

BY GREG GALITZINE


It's always nice to see old friends. Sometimes, when you haven't seen each other in a while, the conversations run long, as you play catch-up, recounting everything that's gone on since the last time you met. Such was the case when Empirix recently visited our offices. Teeing off the conversation was (given the fact that these good folks recently underwent a name change) the recent name change: Essentially, the company formerly known as Hammer Technologies, a division of Teradyne, is now part of newly-formed Empirix (www.empirix.com). The Hammer name will live on, however, as the product line that anchors the Communications Infrastructure Test Group (CITG).

Already an industry force due to their extensive line of testing tools and resources, Empirix CITG came by to announce a slew of enhancements to their existing suite of products and to introduce us to their newest offering as well. As we advance into the next generation of convergence, testing needs to move in that direction too. Carrier class testing for voice quality, switching handoffs, and density (among other things) is clearly in demand as products such as softswitches, gateways, and next-generation switches are set to take more visible positions in the network. Likewise there is a need to test enhanced services and peripherals for functionality, voice quality, etc.

So, What Have You Been Up To?
To that end, Empirix is offering new features across many of its products. In the Performance Test product category, the Hammer LoadBlaster 500 (a high-volume call generator designed to provide the real-world traffic needed to stress test modern telecommunications and computer telephony systems, including complicated voice over network systems and applications) will now sport an improved user interface, the TestBuilder 2.6. Among the interesting features to note here are its support of NFAS, the ability to take an ISDN "D" channel and spread it out across multiple channels, and a series of enhanced graphical reporting capabilities. Speaking of enhanced, the TestBuilder's command line interface (CLI) also sports new features such as the ability to run stop/start tests with up to 20 parameters, access all summary statistics shown on the summary call monitor for groups, servers, or channels, and export those reports to a file of your choosing. Likewise, TestBuilder 2.6 features a new CallProfiler, which is essentially a test scheduler.

Also, Empirix is now offering a TestBuilder Plus option, which allows for three new call profiles:

  • Steady call rate (fixed call rate into system under test);
  • Poisson distribution (defines call arrival rate by statistical distribution); and
  • Rolling blast (a set of channels can go off-hook simultaneously, and repeat across assigned channel sets).

A completely new platform (albeit one that has grown out of an existing product) is the SledgeHammer, a carrier class hardware platform for serious load testing. Also featuring TestBuilder and TestBuilder Plus, the SledgeHammer features three different configurations: 28 spans of T1, 28 spans of E1, or dual DS3s. (The original Hammer DS3 test solution that was introduced a year ago is now a configuration within SledgeHammer.) In essence, this turnkey solution is designed to enable real world testing conditions to test such elements as tones, voice, fax with CAS, ISDN, and SS7 v3.5. The inclusion of TestBuilder and TestBuilder Plus make this system easy to use, too.

How's The New Baby Doing?
On the Control Products side of things, Empirix told us about some developments with their MegaController, introduced just last year (Q3). Where once Hammer's LoadStation could control up to five systems, the MegaController gave users the ability to control over 40 servers, or over 20,000 ports! Enhancements include the ability to leverage the aforementioned features of TestBuilder and TestBuilder Plus, including the new CLI, graphical reports capabilities, grouping and new call profiles.

Not to be left behind, the Hammer IT server also got a bit of an upgrade including the following:

  • Hammer Configurator -- Simplifies configuration process, allows remote configuration of Hammers, and centralizes troubleshooting and systems information access.
  • Support for NFAS with Backup D -- This feature maximizes the available channels for voice allowing one D channel to control up to 479 B channels, an increase of 19 B channels. In addition, it provides for a backup D channel if the primary fails.
  • A new fax toolbar -- Allows users to customize fax sessions without editing scripts, provides action objects for send and receive, and enables different fax profiles for commonly used parameters.

On the Voice Quality testing front, Empirix also announced new features to the Hammer VoIPTS, including voice quality testing at DS3 levels via the Voice Quality Server, simple PSQM, and new fields in the Call Summary Monitor to display voice files below the threshold. And, one of the main features is the ability to integrate with the brand-new PacketSphere from Empirix.

Really? Another On The Way?
PacketSphere is a network processor-based test platform architected to support a number of applications, first of which is a network emulator. The new product addresses the challenges of testing network devices in a constantly (and rapidly) changing environment. Today's testing equipment needs to work with both legacy and next-generation products, and understanding the network parameters under which a particular device works is crucial. Also, outfitting test labs with standalone, slowly evolving test platforms is expensive. To this end, PacketSphere is software upgradeable to allow for multiple applications on a single chassis, and the product's roadmap calls for swappable physical interface modules to expand operations as needed.

On the hardware side, PacketSphere is a 19-inch rack mountable chassis, which fits two network processor modules, two physical interface modules, one control module, a hard drive, and a power supply. User clients can be Windows PCs with administration functions accessible through a standard Web browser. The product is designed to operate a single application at up to gigabit wire speeds or multiple simultaneous applications at 10/100 Mbps speeds.

The product fills a need, namely the ability to simulate real world conditions before a particular system reaches a beta customer's site, thus improving the chances that the system will work as advertised, without having to send in an army of engineers to tweak -- or worse, rewrite -- massive amounts of code. Bottom line? Developers can now find failures sooner, avoiding the problems associated with flawed installations, thus saving time and money.

Don't Let's Be Strangers
I guess it's obvious why we haven't seen our friends at Empirix for the last little while -- they've been BUSY! And there are some clear signs that they will continue to be busy in the months ahead. Which means of course that they'll be stopping by to see us real soon, and I'm sure we'll have lots to talk about. That's the thing with old friends: even though you don't see each other on a regular basis, when you do finally catch up, there's always something new and exciting to hammer out.


Mike von Wahlde

Seeing The IP Forest And Protecting The Trees: Arbor Networks

BY MIKE VON WAHLDE


Everyone dreads the hacker, and for good reason. Hackers, like all fringe elements, work outside a system. Their lives are often dedicated to thinking outside the box, and for those with that worldview, loopholes are easy to find. They don't need to design systems, they only need to figure out how to get into them in order to do their dirty work; dirty work that can cost e-businesses millions upon millions in lost dollars. All the hard work you have put in to develop your own testament to the power of capitalism can be shot down in a matter of hours. This should keep you up at night, but if you are smart, you already have someone up at night doing the worrying for you.

Arbor Networks is a managed networks service that grew out of concerns about the liability associated with hacker flood attacks on high visibility sites. Just over a year ago, many major e-business sites were shut down and millions of dollars lost when such attacks occurred. If systems such as Arbor's would have been in place, such attacks would have had limited potential to do harm.

Arbor uses correlation and analysis techniques to examine the network and search for anomalies in the system. Arbor's Web-based solution is leveraged on the existing network, and works by way of a distributed architecture that runs throughout the network. By monitoring what type and rate of traffic is going through the network, anomalies can be identified and tracked before they take over the system. Furthermore, when those anomalies are fingerprinted (identified) the rest of the network is not only alerted to the specific problem, but the origins of the problem can be tracked.

With managed network service technologies such as Arbor's on your network, you can once again devote your dreams to billion-dollar fantasies and sunny days at the beach. www.arbornetworks.com

[ Return To The March 2001 Table Of Contents ]



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